She started senior kindergarten today. She is returning to the same classroom with the same teacher as last year, and we could not be more thrilled. We walked to school together, just the two of us, and it felt very special. She is filled with pride about being one of the big kids in the class (last year she was one of the little kids; it’s a split class). All three children are in split classes this year, and all of them get to be the big kids in their classrooms, and I’m pleased with the potential for them in that equation: being more experienced, perhaps given more responsibility, and a sense of mentorship. (I don’t know whether that’s pie-in-the-sky fantasizing on my part, but it seems like a possibility).
One new thing for Fooey this year will be riding the bus. She starts that new routine on Monday, and every time a bus goes by our window, she gets very excited: could that be her school bus? The ride will take about six minutes, but will save me approximately forty. I will still pick them all up after school, on foot.
Speaking of on foot, I must report that my trail run last night was so fun! I did not sign up thinking it would be fun, so it was an unexpected surprise and a gift to feel such joy as I ran along the beautiful trail at twilight feeling confident and strong within my body. As I was falling off to sleep last night, I thought of how much I’ve changed in the past year–and how that has changed how our family operates, too. The change has everything to do with being post-pregnancy-and-infant-parenting. Here I thought it would be a time of mourning, of missing those joys that I experienced so fully and keenly: nursing my babies, pregnancy itself, the lull and focus of caring for small children. And while I may feel a twinge every now and again, what’s come of this after-time has been a bubbling of energy and creativity, with a very strong focus on achieving specific goals. I had no idea this was waiting for me on the other side. I just would never have guessed. It was hard, at first, to claim time for myself again, to stake it out and to remind my family that I could take time away from them to pursue my own interests. But we’ve adjusted. And the changes have been so worthwhile. Kevin spends more time with the children. The children themselves are more independent. I don’t feel guilty, and I don’t sense resentment from my family. We’re all moving into this new phase gently and naturally, staying flexible, tinkering with what’s working and what’s not. And my kids get to cheer on their mom as she runs toward the finish line. (And I get to hear them cheering).
Carefully chosen outfits (brand-new clothes from Grandma). Excited to meet up with friends. Heavy bags loaded with gear. Packed lunches. The whole family walking up to school. Another year has begun: grade four, and grade three.
The two younger ones wanted a photograph, too. In fact, they posed. Who could resist?
My office has been touched-up, tidied, desk debris cleared (dusty three-year-old “must-do” piles purged into the recycling bin); we purchased a proper adjustable chair (and removed the folding chair which had replaced the exercise ball both of which had rendered me nearly lame on writing week; seriously, I temporarily lost all feeling down one leg), and Kevin used the skill-saw to customize the tiny computer desk I’ve been using since 1998 (now there was a worthwhile $99.00 investment in pressed-fibre technology). And suddenly, I am sitting in well-organized comfort before my computer screen, in a sunny room that is, yes, still a playroom; but the toys are easily hidden in cupboards and closet, and the bookshelf holds kids’ books on the lower shelves and my books on the upper shelves. I’m ready for the new year.
Because of course this is the real new year. Forget January 1st. I am filled with excitement and energy and ideas and plots and schemes and plans and routines, and my calendar is chock-a-block from one end to the other with everything we’re going to do.
I have spent today baking in preparation for school lunches and after-school snacks: chocolate sunflower granola bars; granola; banana muffins; bread. I didn’t feel much like baking all day, but put my head down and gutted through it–not unlike my run this morning–and it’s done, and I feel ready. The school bags are filled with supplies and new shoes. The lunches have yet to be made, but as part of our re-division of household labour, Kevin has offered to take over the packing of the lunches (YESSSSSS!!!!), as well as breakfasts, and Sunday evening supper–aka cooking with the kids. He’s also been noticing and doing dishes more frequently. I can’t express to you the difference this makes, but if you are the regular dish-doer at your house, then you will appreciate the change, too. The kids will pack their snacks on pizza day and sub day; I’m not sure whether we’ll also work to transition them into packing their own lunches more often. Baby steps. If I could get them to throw their dirty laundry into the basket, or down the basement steps in the direction of the washing machine, and to put away their individual piles of carefully folded clothes each evening … well, those seem do-able goals for the near future.
This summer, I’ve heavily loaded the front end of our summer holiday. Whether this proves to be a good idea or not has yet to be established, but at the very least, it will prevent the early lethargy and cries of boredom that marked the early days of last summer’s holiday.
Albus spent his first few days of holiday at home with us, and he was a changed person. He organized a self-monitoring system (“we all have to be honest”) to keep track of good and bad behavior. With AppleApple, he set up a stage in the living-room and organized a play that they plan to work on over the summer. He was, in short, a suddenly happy, thoughtful big brother, not the surly child we’ve seen so frequently in these latter days of the third grade. I think he must have been suffering more than we’d recognized, at school this year. He and I spent some time together, just the two of us, on Friday, and I asked him what he did not like about school, and he said that he didn’t like sitting still. Sitting still and doing work, because the work was boring–sometimes it was boring because he already knew how to do it, and sometimes it was boring because he didn’t know how to do it. Bit of a catch-22 there.
What most amazed me and Kevin was that these projects that Albus was organizing involved sitting down and writing. We could barely get him to write two sentences for his homework all year, and there it was: evidence of spontaneously occurring, self-motivated, parentally-painless application of literacy skills.
(We see this from AppleApple all the time; in fact, one of our projects last week–hers and mine–was to put together her newspaper, which is now completed! We just need to make copies, and possibly figure out how to post it online and link to it from the blog, to save paper and postage. More info on this soon. If you want a paper copy, send me a message).
So, was it wise to send Albus off to overnight camp so soon after he was released from the bonds of school? The photos I took of AppleApple at camp yesterday show her busily arranging her bunk with all of her belongings (and she took her journal, so I expect new stories for the next edition of “Family Times” to be forthcoming). The photos of Albus, however, show him attempting to smile, then not even trying. His features and posture are transparent. He looks much younger in photographs. I could hardly stand to look at the photos last night, he looks so lonely and uncertain in them. I hope this was temporary. They were going to go swimming straight away.
I wonder–maybe he’s a homebody?
I will see them both tomorrow, because I’ll be picking up AppleApple, who is only staying for two nights. She has a soccer tournament all this week and weekend. Albus has the choice of staying on till Saturday, and I really wonder, now, what he’ll choose.
My two little ones: it’s just like a regular school day, on the days when Fooey is at home. Playing at the counter, colouring, writing. We have hired a neighbour girl to tutor Fooey and Albus this summer. Fooey is very close to reading, and eager to work hard on it–and I don’t have the time to feed her need as much as she’d like. She just spent a full hour sounding out words with our sweet, patient neighbour.
Albus was less keen to hear about the tutoring plan, but surprisingly accepting–we want him to keep working on his writing and reading this summer (which he may just do all on his own–who knew??); they’ll run multiplication tables together, he will read out loud, and work on writing an ongoing adventure story. After seeing Fooey’s appetite for learning this morning, I’m wondering whether half an hour, three times a week, will be enough for her.